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Ftcash: No Cash, Please

Ftcash is bringing digital payments to micro merchants by eliminating the use of point-of-sale machines

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami

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Deepak Kothari, Co-founder, ftcash

The idea of kick-starting a new payment system to bring entrepreneurs onto digital payment platforms seemed intriguing, nay challenging, to Deepak Kothari when a routine servicing of his car required him to personally visit the garage and make the payment.

As millions of small businesses deal in cash daily, Kothari saw an opportunity to make payments seamless and digital for micro-merchants. “Everyone is doing business in cash at the micro-level,” says Kothari, co-founder, ftcash. “While newspaper, milk and grocery vendors deliver products faultlessly, payments have to be made in cash. This was an opportunity for us to develop new systems for payments.”

Enter ftcash. A micro-merchant now does not require a point-of-sale machine. The merchant sends a simple message to customers’ mobiles with all invoice details, along with a weblink through which customers can make the payments. Micro-merchants can come on the platform at zero cost, but have to pay a small transaction fee each time they receive payments.

Kothari, a chartered accountant, has pitched the business model as a pay-as-you-go system, where the merchants are charged only when they receive a payment. A small business can send an invoice electronically to customers who then can pay through an app. Ftcash kick-started operations with about Rs 40 lakh in the kitty from the co-founders. Co-founder and CEO Sanjeev Chandok worked on developing the platform, while Kothari saw to it that the features were constantly tweaked and improved.

Soon after launching in 2015, Kothari reckons the first 100 small businesses were extremely difficult to convince to come on board. “But as kinks were resolved, we launched full-scale in Mumbai,” says Kothari. Today, ftcash has over 5,000 small businesses in Mumbai on board, and does a few hundred digital transactions daily.

Over time, ftcash tweaked its platform to make it more convenient for small businesses to use the service. Earlier, micro-merchants needed a smartphone and an app to send invoices to customers. Now, a simple feature phone can send out their invoices. Customers just have to go to the weblink in these messages to pay the outstandings through whatever payment service they use. Ftcash also makes invoices, tracks outstanding dues, and helps businesses keep a tab on the billings. Customers, of course, have the option of downloading the app and saving regular details.

Kothari sees a huge opportunity in online payments, which are expected to exceed cash payments by 2023 in India. Further, digital payments are seen touching $500 billion by 2020, says a Google-BCG report. In the last six months, customer acquisition has risen 12 times, with transaction volumes surging 10 times. Ftcash acquires new business through the feet-on-the-street strategy.

Besides enabling micro payments, ftcash also facilitates loans and working capital credit to micro merchants. Some of them now receive loans from select NBFCs on the basis of their billings on the platform. Ftcash plans to service more than one million businesses in five years.

In the fintech space, a plethora of innovations have been launched: e-wallets, pocket wallets, mobile wallets, and the unified payment interface (UPI). Through its web application, ftcash can work seamlessly with all payment modes, including the UIP. Deepak is unfazed by the speed at which disruption is happening in the tech arena. “Some of the things we are doing today are disrupting the system. But our idea is to disrupt ourselves rather than somebody else disrupting us.” That’s the mantra ftcash may find handy in the years to come.

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